InventSTEM Challenges Youth to Develop Renewable Energy Solutions

December 4, 2019, 2:43 pm | Sara Nelson

High school youth build their InventSTEM challenge solution.AMES, Iowa – To meet a rising demand for future professionals in science, technology, engineering and math, Iowa 4-H Youth Development offers InventSTEM. This program helps young people develop skills and innovate as they explore the importance of STEM in everyday life.

The InventSTEM program uses a learning framework that encourages youth to first take part in a variety of STEM learning opportunities. This year youth will participate in activities such as investigating wind-powered boats, experimenting with wind tunnels and designing wind turbines, said Sara Nelson, Iowa 4-H STEM specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Next, youth are asked to reflect on what they have learned in the activities and then use that knowledge to solve an InventSTEM challenge. This year, the challenges focus on designing and testing solutions around the topic of renewable energy.  

“The challenges are an important part of the learning process. They help connect STEM learning to real-life issues and showcase the value of hands-on, minds-on experiences,” Nelson said.

The program, developed in partnership with Alliant Energy, has provided an InventSTEM educational kit and access to professional development for all ISU Extension and Outreach county offices. This year, the kits focus on the topic of renewable energy and include curriculum and key lesson materials.

“As an energy company, we need problem solvers and fresh thinkers,” said Julie Bauer, community affairs manager for Alliant Energy. “We are excited to offer the InventSTEM program to encourage students across Iowa to engage in the innovation process to solve real-world problems.”

Youth teams can submit their solutions to the InventSTEM challenges for review by representatives from 4-H and Alliant Energy. The top youth teams will be awarded prizes and the chance to showcase their ideas at the 2020 Iowa State Fair. The challenge is open to all youth in grades 4-12 across the state.

For more information, contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office or visit the InventSTEM website,

Photo caption: High school youth build their InventSTEM challenge solution.


About the Authors: